Blood Donation Overview
Despite the large donations made from high-income countries, most donations (65%) are used for blood transfusions in low-income countries for children less than 5 years old. Blood transfusions made in high-income countries are typical to patients older than 65 years of age.
As expected, there is a major difference in the availability of blood for transfusions in different countries. Countries with high levels of donation, such as the U.S. and other major blood donating countries, have more blood available. However, many low- and middle-income countries make very few donations and thus have very limited access to blood. These counties are primarily in Africa (38 countries). Other countries with limited access include 5 in the Americas, 6 in the Mediterranean, 5 in Europe and 14 in Asia.
A total of 112.5 million blood donation is made each year around the world. Most of these donations, approximately half, are from first-world or high-income countries, even though they only make up one-fifth of the world’s population.
While in the U.S. half of blood donors are women, globally only about 30% of women donate. In some countries, less than 10% of donations are from women. Most donors in low- and middle- income countries are more likely to be young than in high-income countries.
In 74 countries, an overwhelming number (90%) of blood donations are made from voluntary unpaid blood donors. However, in just as many other countries (74), more than half of donations are made from friends and family members of blood transfusion recipients or paid donors.
In the United States:
There is always a demand for blood donations. In the U.S. blood is needed every two seconds. Nearly 36,000 pints (16,200 liters) of blood are needed every single day. The average blood transfusion patient requires 3 pints of blood. Because of the large quantities needed in such a short amount of time during major disasters, emergency rooms aim to have enough blood already on hand prior to the emergency.
Blood components are also in high demand. About 7,000 pints (3,150 litters) of platelets and 10,000 pints (4,500 liters) of plasma are needed each day in the U.S. alone.
Since blood cannot be made, the only way to obtain blood is through donors. Approximately 13.1 million pints of blood are needed in the U.S. each year. In total, 13.6 million whole blood and red blood cell donations combined are made each year from 6.8 million people. However, these donations not only support Americans but individuals all over the world. Thus, demand is still very high. This is roughly less than 10% of the American population. Yet, almost 40% of U.S. citizens are eligible to donate at one time.
Most donors, about half, make donations regularly. However, nearly a quarter of donations are made by first-time donors. Another quarter is provided by occasional donors.
While 45% of Americans have type O blood, universal donor blood, type O negative, is only held by 7% of the population. However, its occurrence varies among different populations. Minority populations, specifically Hispanics (57%) and African Americans (51%) are more likely to have type O blood.